Cube Design – Born of the Gods Set Review

It’s set review season! Cube set reviews have historically been a little problematic, as the Cube format means many different things to different Cube designers. I, however, run just a single Cube: an extremely fast, 360-card Cube. Intentionally or not, my card evaluations are informed by this context. I won’t try to guess whether a card belongs in a 720-card Cube. Or, as a friend recently put it, “I’d rather have a horse kick dirt in my face than read another rating that tells me [card]Boros Elite[/card] is a 630 staple.’”

That said, to keep things interesting and digestible, I will provide verdicts for each of the cards I discuss. Consider these to be evaluations for Cubes with a power level similar to my own Cube’s.

[ccProd]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/ccProd]

[draft]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/draft]

Ah, the annual 1W 3-power beater with an upside. Wizards has been churning these out once per year, and Cube designers now have a bevy of options to choose from.

[draft]Accorder Paladin
Cloistered Youth
Daring Skyjek[/draft]

[card]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/card] clearly scales with the density of card draw in an environment, and is a far more effective hate-”bear” in the likes of Legacy than in Modern or Standard. It’s been a long time since [card]Blade of the Sixth Pride[/card] made the cut in Cube.

Following the recent testimony of fellow Cube designers, I’ve brought in [card]Daring Skyjek[/card] to white’s 2-drop slot and have been pleasantly surprised. [card]Accorder Paladin[/card] would die without fail when facing defense in the red zone, but sequencing for a battalion attack has been rather satisfying.

Verdict: Pass, but if you missed it the first time, give [card]Daring Skyjek[/card] a shot.

[ccProd]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/ccProd]

[draft]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/draft]

You know he’s good, I know he’s good. Is this white’s most threatening 3-drop? After scooping on turn 3 to an 8/5 double-striking [card]Fabled Hero[/card] last draft, I’m not sure. Is this white’s most interesting 3-drop? Certainly not.

After the printing of an abominable 3-drop-who-shall-not-be-named in Commander 2013, I’m wondering if Wizards is designing 3-drops to maximize the ratio of power to play. Brimaz has been heralded as a 3-mana [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card], but there’s one key difference: [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] actually has to turn sideways.

Brimaz offers decision trees that are as branching as construction site lumber, and if you put him in your Cube, he’ll undoubtedly be your least compelling option. Combining an attack trigger with vigilance just isn’t all that interesting, and although I’m sure that some day, someone somewhere will assemble the nut Brimaz-Opposition, mostly you’ll just keep turning him sideways sliding him forwards until the path is no longer clear.

I certainly won’t begrudge anyone for running him, but when lined up next to options like [card]Blade Splicer[/card], [card]Fabled Hero[/card], and [card]Flickerwisp[/card], Brimaz leaves me flat.

Verdict: Run if power-level is your only metric.

[ccProd]Archetype of Courage[/ccProd]

[draft]Archetype of Courage[/draft]

Despite what I said above about triggering battalion on [card]Daring Skyjek[/card], Cube boards in a high removal-density environment aren’t often glutted with creatures. For the same cost, [card]Silverblade Paladin[/card] generally grants double-strike to most or all of your creatures.

Verdict: Pass.

[ccProd]Herald of Torment[/ccProd]

[draft]Herald of Torment[/draft]

A modal, aggressively-costed black 3-drop—What’s not to love? Black’s 3-drop slot is notoriously non-competitive, and bestow remains the most cubeable new mechanic of the block. Herald of Torment follows the winning formula established by [card]Boon Satyr[/card] as a 3-drop with a 5-mana bestow cost.

Verdict: Run it, love it.

[ccProd]Drown in Sorrow[/ccProd]

[draft]Drown in Sorrow[/draft]

If you weren’t running [card]Infest[/card], Drown in Sorrow’s added scry is unlikely to tip the scales, especially with [card]Toxic Deluge[/card] now on the market.

Verdict: Pass.

[ccProd]Eye Gouge[/ccProd]

[draft]Eye Gouge[/draft]

It’s possible that if you only peruse Cube content, you could miss this endearing card entirely. That’s a tragedy I won’t allow.

[ccProd]Pain Seer[/ccProd]

[draft]Pain Seer[/draft]

I was burned by my optimism for the last [card]Dark Confidant[/card] variant they printed, and that one was even a zombie! Pain Seer doesn’t start netting card dividends until Turn 4 at the earliest. Bears aren’t known for their durability in the red zone. Dark Confidant does more than his fair share of sitting idly on the sidelines, and if your opponent can’t handle a 2/2 swinging at them, you’re probably ahead anyways. You can’t win the game twice.

Verdict: Pass.

[ccProd]Spiteful Returned[/ccProd]

[draft]Spiteful Returned[/draft]

It’s a Bestow [card]Pulse Tracker[/card]! Kind of. A loss of two life is nothing to sneeze at, and Spiteful Returned brings some reach to the sometimes lacking black attacking decks. And it’s a Zombie! If you’re running the [card]Gravecrawler[/card] package, this just might be marginal enough to include.

Also, apparently this is not a Zombie when it’s an aura. Or so claims my judge friend:

“If an object’s card type is removed, the subtypes correlated with that card type will remain if they are also the subtypes of a card type the object currently has; otherwise, they are also removed for the entire time the object’s card type is removed. Removing an object’s subtype doesn’t affect its card types at all.”

Verdict: Test. I’ll be subbing him in for [card]Rotting Rats[/card], at least temporarily.

[ccProd]Fated Conflagration[/ccProd]

[draft]Fated Conflagration[/draft]

If you consider Scry 2 to be roughly equivalent to drawing a card, this is almost like a red [card]Cryptic Command[/card] with only two modes!

[ccProd]Flame-Wreathed Phoenix[/ccProd]

[draft]Flame-Wreathed Phoenix[/draft]

Just what cubers have been looking for, more competition at the red 4-drop slot! The punisher mechanic cards tend to play worse than they read, but both sides of Flame-Wreathed Phoenix are legitimately desirable. An evasive 5/5 for 4 mana more than pulls its weight, considering that any number of 3-mana blue 3/4s with downsides are perfectly playable.

[draft]Serendib Efreet
Stitched Drake

Chances are there are similarly-powered red 4-drops in your on-deck binder, but whenever possible, I tend to favor the recent printings to keep things fresh for my weekly drafters.

Verdict: Run it. I’ll be giving [card]Hero of Oxid Ridge[/card] a rest.

[ccProd]Springleaf Drum[/ccProd], [ccProd]Reckless Reveler[/ccProd], [ccProd]Revoke Existence[/ccProd]

[draft]Springleaf Drum
Torch Fiend
Revoke Existence[/draft]

More reprints, nothing to see here.

[ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd]

[draft]Searing Blood[/draft]

In case you missed the parallel, Wizards did us the favor of printing this card with a name that shares nine characters with its predecessor. I don’t think most 360-card Cubes are really in the market for two RR removal spells, and [card]Searing Blaze[/card] has far more play (not to mention power) to it. Searing Blaze gives you the opportunity to feel clever for holding onto that last land, and Searing Blood is a no-frills blunt tool.

Also, we draft right after dinner here, and could do without seeing this card’s art for dessert.

Verdict: Pass.

[ccProd]Satyr Firedancer[/ccProd]

[draft]Satyr Firedancer[/draft]

The design is compelling, but I can’t imagine Cube decks reaching a high enough density of burn spells to want this effect.

Verdict: Pass

[ccProd]Courser of Kruphix[/ccProd]

[draft]Courser of Kruphix[/draft]

As detailed in my Spoiler Spotlight, I am simply enamored with this card. It addresses all the issues I had with [card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card], and even synergizes with my new life gain archetype!

Verdict: Run it ’til the end of time.

[ccProd]Nessian Wilds Ravager[/ccProd]

[draft]Nessian Wilds Ravager[/draft]

Alongside [ccProd]Polukranos[/ccProd], I love the direction Wizards is taking green creature-based removal. Nessian Wilds Ravager is competing directly with [ccProd]Rampaging Baloths[/ccProd], and both cards have the potential to dump absurd amounts of power onto the board. Both of Nessian Wilds Ravager’s modes sound efficiently costed in the abstract, but I fear that you’ll never feel great about casting it. Without trample, our newest Hydra would likely live a long life getting chumped turn after turn.

Verdict: Pass. The design is close, but not quite sufficient, power-level wise.

[ccProd]Ephara, God of the Polis[/ccProd]

[draft]ephara, god of the polis[/draft]

Without some significant reworks to my Cube design, I don’t anticipate my Azorius decks reaching 7 devotion very frequently, and thus judge Ephara almost entirely by her enchantment side. It does nothing when it hits the board, and, with several turns of investment might net you a multicolor [card]Harmonize[/card]!

Verdict: Pass.

[ccProd]Fanatic of Xenagos[/ccProd]

[draft]Fanatic of Xenagos[/draft]

As a likely trampling [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card], the power level is there. If you’re trying to relieve your Gruul section of an excess of 4-drops, Fanatic of Xenagos may be your man.

[draft]Ghor-Clan Rampager
Huntmaster of the Fells
Bloodbraid Elf
Sarkhan Vol[/draft]

Verdict: Run it if you need it.

[ccProd]Kiora, the Crashing Wave[/ccProd]

[draft]Kiora, the Crashing Wave[/draft]

By contrast, if you are looking to relieve your Simic section of an excess of 3-drops, this could be the direction to turn.

[draft]Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Shardless Agent
Trygon Predator[/draft]

As always, if you run her, I do recommend cutting another planeswalker from elsewhere to keep your planeswalker saturation at a reasonable level. For my own Cube, Simic decks tend to be more tempo-based than ramp based, but whether you run Kiora or not largely falls to personal preference.

Verdict: Run it if you like the design, and have an abnormally high tolerance for awful Kiora the Explorer and “two Explores” jokes.

[ccProd]Mogis, God of Slaughter[/ccProd]

[draft]Mogis, God of Slaughter[/draft]

Mogis, God of Slaughter strikes all the right notes for me. Any card evocative of [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card] is sure to turn heads, and while this might not match the power level of red’s most powerful Cube card, it does have a much splashier design.

Let’s take a moment to touch on devotion. I was not particularly enthralled with Theros‘s approach to devotion, as Cubes tend to be very multicolor focused. We run in the ballpark of 10 percent multicolor cards, as well as boatloads of fixing. There’s a reason mono-color incentive cards like [ccProd]Rofellos[/ccProd] or [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card] don’t get printed in blocks like Ravnica or Alara, and I feel the same holds for Cube. That said, there is a faction of Cube designers who have rigged their Cubes to support cards like [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] to varying degrees of success.

Devotion to two colors is a whole new ball game, and is wholly in line with what I’m trying to achieve with my Cube’s design. Further, if I had to guess a guild pairing most likely to hit 7 devotion, Rakdos would be it.

Chandra’s Phoenix
Phyrexian Arena
Fulminator Mage
Murderous Redcap
Geralf’s Messenger[/draft]

Rakdos is filled with recursive color-intensive threats, and if you really want to push the issue you can run permanent-based removal like [card]Seal of Fire[/card] and [card]Executioner’s Capsule[/card]. Or, uh, [card]Sarcomancy[/card].

Most interestingly, Mogis’ damage can be interacted with, and I imagine this card will create some very intricate races.

Verdict: Run it.

Jason’s Cube Discussion Forumhttp://riptidelab.com/forum/


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